‘No one knows the true facts,’ says Thabo Bester in courtroom outburst

Claims he’s not the worst inmate and was coerced to plead guilty to rape and murder in 2012

05 June 2024 - 14:05
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Thabo Bester made allegations against a range of people during his court appearance. File photo.
Thabo Bester made allegations against a range of people during his court appearance. File photo.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

What was meant to be a simple pretrial hearing in the Thabo Bester matter turned into a lengthy outburst from the man at the centre of the saga when he used the proceedings as a platform to raise issues around his case.

Bester, his girlfriend Nandipha Magudumana and seven co-accused linked to his dramatic escape from Mangaung maximum security prison in May 2022, returned to the Free State High Court on Wednesday for the pretrial hearing.

The matter was transferred from the Bloemfontein magistrate's court late last year after a lengthy bail application.

Bester, Magudumana and Zanda Moyo remain in custody while the rest of the accused are out on bail of R10,000 each.

He is alleged to have escaped from the Mangaung prison with their help. He was sentenced in 2012 to life imprisonment and 25 years in jail for the murder of his then-girlfriend, Johannesburg model and car saleswoman Nomfundo Tyhulu, and for armed robbery related to possessions he took from Tyhulu after killing her. 

On Wednesday, the matter kicked off after a delay with several points raised by legal representatives for some of the accused.

Among them was Kagisho Moruri, who represents Senohe Matsoara and Tieho Frans Makhotsa, who requested a postponement to allow his clients time to resolve their financial issues.

Moruri told the court he was yet to receive financial instructions from them but had an undertaking these “will be forthcoming in six weeks”. 

He was followed by Mohamed Seedat, who became the latest lawyer to withdraw from representing Bester after stepping in to represent him in February. Seedat had taken over from Jan Loubser and, before that, Peter Matee's mandates.  

“After consulting with my client, we believe it's in his best interest for him to procure legal representation from Johannesburg or Pretoria, where it will be easier for them to have access to him on a regular basis. For those reasons I withdraw as the attorney on record.”

Shortly after, Bester stood up to speak.

Smartly dressed in a brown and black coat and jersey ensemble, he told the court his previous counsel was not appointed by him and was “appointed outside the mandate”.

Despite this, he said they had tried to consult with him at Kgosi Mampuru Prison's C-Max section in Pretoria, where he is being detained.

“It's a challenge I want to raise with this court. At C-Max I'm not allowed to consult with my legal representation as I wish and even the client-attorney privilege is a challenge. The matter I am facing here at court has to do with the Correctional Services Act and, indirectly, correctional services are part of the complaint because they are charging me with escape.

“I feel my confidentiality of consultation is being compromised because they have a direct interest.

“I cannot divulge certain information about my alleged escape because I do not believe it was an escape. Whatever the facts, I cannot freely consult with any attorney who comes to C-Max because of the restriction the national commissioner has instructed to the wardens there.”

He claimed his consultations with his legal team had to be conducted telephonically and this meant the conversations were recorded and “used as a mechanism to access information” about him.

I've been segregated from everyone for the past 15 months. I feel for my mental health. 
Convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester

Bester told the court he was finalising the appointment of new legal counsel.

Judge Joseph Mhlambi told Bester to sort that issue out and then look into instructing them to bring a formal application. 

"I do not have the facts and the full circumstances yet,” Mhlambi said.

This did not appease Bester, who stood up again and read a plea scribbled on an exam pad in which he expanded on the challenges he faces.

“I've been segregated from everyone for the past 15 months and have had no access or contact with any human except for the [guard] who sits outside my door. I feel for my mental health and other issues. It's unfair and not presenting me in the best [light],” he told the court.

Bester also claimed he was not brought to court freely, and was “forced” to wear clothes that do not attract attention.

He became emotional when he claimed he was treated unfairly and unequally by the media and justice department.

“I believe if I don't speak for myself, who's going to do that for me? Because I'm going to come here and get remand after remand and it's going to be as if I want to delay this matter. I'm nearly done with my sentence, I want to finish with this matter.

“I don't feel I'm being equally treated like any other accused person in the country. You have the media which has tarnished and destroyed me [based] on no facts or evidence.

“It's confirmed I escaped but no one knows the true facts. It's confirmed that Thabo Bester is a rapist and murderer but there's no evidence. I am self-convicted [and] pleaded guilty [to Tyhulu's murder].

“I have been out for a year. I'm not the worst inmate in this country [or] one with the highest counts but I'm the most popular inmate for no reason [except] for the political issues I have in my personal capacity that have nothing to do with these legal proceedings.”

Bester's lover Magudumana was seen holding back tears when he spoke despite not formally acknowledging him when she arrived in court.

Mhlambi again reiterated his advice for Bester to bring a formal application once he resolved the issue around his legal team. 

The matter was postponed to July 24.


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